four months

Four months since I hung this little “birdhouse” in the lilac bush. Obviously, there are no birds living in it. I did see a big fat spider in there one morning, but that day was too windy for me to get a picture.


You can see that it’s been picked at, though. I like to think that some of the wool that’s been pulled out has gone into birds’ nests.


j’en peux plus

Words have been hard for me lately. There’s so much going on, and so little that seems worth saying about it all. And yet, silence also feels … not quite right.

I’ve been reading Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. The introduction says:

Original nature has no opposites. Speech and words are not necessary. Without thinking, all things are exactly as they are. The truth is just like this.

Then why do we use words? Why have we made this book?

According to Oriental medicine, when you have a hot sickness you should take hot medicine. Most people are very attached to words and speech. So we cure this sickness with word-and-speech medicine.

So here is an attempt at medicine for whatever sickness I’ve got. I imagine I am not the only one. May we all be cured.

Some words that I keep hearing my head, an echo from 30 years ago: j’en peux plus. Translated from the French, they mean roughly “I can’t take it anymore.”

It’s not just words that have been hard. I have come to a couple of places recently where (oh, mercy) I just can’t take it anymore. For the good of all beings everywhere – for you, for me, for my poor therapist, for that confused bastard from out of town who is stuck in traffic in front of me – it has to stop. I cannot keep doing this dance. One of those places is in the studio, with the moths.

But how? A carefully worded letter to the moths will do no good. The moths are just exactly as they are, beyond words.

And then, a miracle: it occurred to me that I could take the guts out of “i know what i know.” I could cut the guts open, remove the felted wool balls, replace them with something less delicious. I could coat the wool in “bad signal” and “butterfly soup” with something both less toxic and more permanent than insecticide.

As I got used to the idea, I grew to love the process and the added layers of meaning. I am not afraid of work. These changes are a language that the moths will understand.

It turns out that the guts have a surprising amount of structural integrity, even without their wool stuffing. Maybe they will go back into the sculpture just as they are, light and empty. Maybe I will have to give the sculpture a new title. Maybe “i know nothing”?


After experimenting with some smaller felted sculptures, I settled on an acrylic-based fabric stiffener to coat the pieces that can’t have their wool removed. Will all that liquid make the wire rust? Oh yes:


Rust is rust. Change is change. Let them be exactly as they are.

three months


Three months since I hung this little sculpture in the lilac bush. It looks about the same to me as it did last month.

It has been hot this month, which makes the studio unappealing. I have been working on my social life instead, which feels mostly exhausting and weird (with occasional pockets of deeply rewarding).

I recently complained to someone that the internet is making my head feel like ten pounds of other people’s opinions in a five-pound sack, which means you won’t be seeing much of me on Facebook.

I’m starting to work my way through Lynda Barry’s Syllabuswhich has me making lists every day of things I did and things I saw. Here are today’s lists:


  • software updates (ugh)
  • took a nap
  • went for a walk
  • Notebook Club with Julie and Sam
  • picked up trash in the park
  • killed a bunch of ants on my sofa
  • made a mushroom risotto


  • piece of black foam like a giant liquorice allsort lying by the side of the road
  • rabbit prints in the driveway
  • a woman tying her leopard print scarf across her face as she waited to cross the street
  • Sam’s bird dance
  • Julie’s orange pants
  • a groundhog racing into the knotweed by the river
  • a hummingbird investigating the foxgloves


two months


As you can see, there’s lots more rust than there was last month.

And what have I up to, while my little sculpture has been busily rusting?

– Killing bugs. I have become a Bug Killing Machine. In addition to the ongoing moth issues in my studio, there are carpenter ants in the southwest corner of my house. I hear them in the living room ceiling, chewing and chewing and chewing. It’s an awfully big noise for such small creatures. The walls have been injected with poison, and I have contractors lined up to take the house apart and deal with the rot (carpenter ants love rotting wood) later this summer.

– Cleaning the mouse smells out of my car. Nature’s Miracle has become one of my favorite things ever.

– Regular vigorous walks.  Also squats and lunges and push-ups, oh my.

– Exploring materials other than wool for my next sculpture

– Trying, as always, to find a balance between solitude and connection.

a month

Dave and I went to Alaska for a couple of weeks. I didn’t take many pictures during the trip. The experience defied my limited photographic abilities and my grasp of language.

We came home to a mountain of mail, a very clingy cat, and a car that reeks of dead mouse. There’s no more snow on the ground. Lilacs are blooming. Mornings and evenings, I can hear a wood thrush singing in the nearby woods.

Last month I hung a small sculpture from one of our lilac bushes. The wire is starting to rust, and the wool appears to have been picked at by birds looking for nesting material. Here is what it looks like now:


more cleaning

More cleaning today. Took down all the small felted sculptures in the back room.


Some of them went in the trash. Others are in my freezer.

One of “birdhouses” had a pair of moths in it. I hung it from a lilac bush in my yard, and will try to photograph it every month so we can all watch it weather.


If you look closely, you can see one of the moths inside.

Other things that are in the freezer include Lindsay’s wig and necklaces.


The freezer is very full.

A couple of the smaller sculptures got thoroughly sprayed with insecticide. The bigger ones in the front room too.

What really bothers me about this whole mess is the hat I made a couple of months ago. It is out there in someone else’s life, possibly with moth eggs in it. I feel sick.



spring cleaning

The moths are back. They are almost definitely Tineola bisselliella, in case that matters to anyone. I set traps last summer, and I caught a lot of them. Then the traps stayed empty for a few months, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

But now they’re back. When I sit down on the sofa, I inevitably disturb a moth or two. They skitter across my mat while I’m practicing yoga. I actually kind of love them. They are quiet, and they don’t bite. The adult moths don’t even have mouths. If only their children weren’t eating my work…

This time around, I can see the evidence of them in my stash of fleece: eggs, frass, the web of a cocoon. It’s easy to miss in a big fluffy pile, especially when the wool tends to have little bits of leaves and grass in it. But it’s there.

Their favorite food and nesting material seems to be the pre-felted fleece that I used to cover “butterfly soup.” Someday maybe it will be okay with me if her skin gets eaten away. There’s a little part of me that thinks it would be interesting to watch. But not this year, please.

So every day I go into the studio and do a little more purging. I have thrown out the first felted wire sculptures I made. Small experiments, not much bigger than my fist.

I threw out a lot of fleece. Sorry, sheep! Sorry, farmers! Sorry, past versions of me! On the other hand, think of the birds and rodents and (yes) moths that may get to enjoy it now that it’s not in my studio anymore!

The things I couldn’t bear to get rid of are stashed in my freezer,where I am hoping the cold will kill any eggs that might be hidden in them. I am looking for good airtight containers to store them in when they come out of hibernation. And I am hoping I haven’t accidentally brought any eggs home with me.

little bastards

These little bastards have been hanging out in my latest work.


They are probably either tineola bisselliella or tinea pellionella. I have ordered traps for both. I am not too concerned about the sculpture itself: the adult moths don’t chew. It’s the larvae that do the chewing, and they prefer dark places. I have numerous small felt-covered sculptures around the studio. They’ve been there for years, and nobody has chewed holes in them. Probably the caterpillars are nesting comfortably in a box of fleece. That’ll be a nasty not-quite-surprise when I find it.

I know they’re just minding their business, but still: little bastards.